The most recent big Dallas Cowboys news immediately made me think of scenes from old war movies. The nervous, green recruit is on sentry duty, and the seasoned old sergeant has come to check on him.
“It’s quiet,” the private says.
There is a moment’s pause before the old sarge answers, “TOO quiet.”
And then, arcing at them out of the dark...
That’s what Zack Martin lobbed at the team with the report he is considering holding out of training camp, now less than a week away. The months since the NFL Draft had been very placid for the Cowboys. More than a couple of people out there were knowingly waiting for something to explode. After all, contract issues have become something of a tradition to start the NFL season in Dallas, or more accurately in Oxnard.
For Martin, it makes a ton of sense, as he is not being paid like the stellar talent he is. His current contract was probably negotiated with some expectation that he would have begun to tail off by this point in his career, but he has defied expectations, being named All-Pro last year for the sixth time, and making his eighth Pro Bowl roster. Only injury issues in 2020 kept him from making the Pro Bowl every single year of his career to date. Simply put, he delivered more value for his salary in 2022 than any other guard in the league. Now he justifiably wants to cash in a bit more before his career does end. Some will inevitably side with management on this. Don’t expect that in this article.
Martin’s move isn’t only justifiable, it is smart to make this demand. He is the only absolute lock Hall of Fame player on the roster. He isn’t just the best player the Cowboys have, he is one of the elite at any position in the entire league. It is impossible to argue that he doesn’t deserve more compensation for what he brings to the table.
We discussed this situation on the latest episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you do not miss any of our episodes or other shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Leverage is always crucial in these kinds of situations, and let’s face it, Martin has a lot. He is the rock the offensive line is built on, with health concerns at both tackle positions. With those looming, the possibility of him missing games if this is allowed to drag on could be absolutely devastating to the offense. The starters, when healthy, are all very good. But depth is shallow, and that is perhaps a bit kind.
This is a familiar story for the team. Over the years, there have been many stalemated contract situations to start camp, and holdouts are not unheard of. It is just part of the culture for the team under the cap management of Stephen Jones. He always seems to think he can lowball the players to save cap pie. Such situations are allowed to drag on until things get down to the wire. “Deadlines make deals” is definitely part of the philosophy of management. The contracts almost always get done, but they also almost always favor the player and cost the team more than they should. More good faith negotiations could avoid this. That is a lesson that just never is learned.
Martin has been an exemplary team player, so this one came as a surprise. But we’ve seen other “team players” caught up in these at times acrimonious negotiations.
It just feels inevitable that Jones is going to have to part with a good chunk of the current $20 million plus in cap space, The Cowboys can afford to do so because of that money, but the perception was that they were hoping to use that to work out a deal with another important player. In recent weeks, Trevon Diggs has been a name constantly cropping up. Now, things are tighter to get a deal done, assuming the team does make Martin happy. And on the same day the Martin news broke, this cropped up.
I had the opportunity to ask @DezBryant about the contract situation between @TrevonDiggs and the @dallascowboys on the @personalcorner Twitter space! Dez does a great job of keeping his ears to the street and always has great insights on player movement.— West Coast Cowboy (@WestCCowboy) July 19, 2023
Dez says Diggs "is not… pic.twitter.com/bdA799C81w
Now it looks like not one, but two of the players the team was relying heavily on are less than thrilled with their treatment, at least according to Dez. It is frustrating to see this happen over and over.
Diggs is just one of the players the team needs to be working on extending. They can buy time with CeeDee Lamb by exercising his fifth-year option, but they are expecting him to be a significant contributor. That will just put more pressure to get a deal done for him. Terence Steele is in the last year of his deal, and if his health holds up, it would be bad business to not get him re-signed. Tony Pollard is playing on the tag. He may be on a Dalton Schultz trajectory, where the team will let him walk if the backups show some promise this season. Still, there is absolutely a history of the team overpaying the most replaceable position in the game. Micah Parsons is looming in the future, but his deal still has enough seasons left that a lot can happen in the meantime.
That’s why some of us feel like the grizzled sergeant in my metaphor. It had been such a calm offseason for Dallas, and apparently a very successful one. While we were still a bit surprised by the specific nature of this situation, our hackles were up. Experience told us that something was almost certain to blow up.
That hardly means this is not a salvageable situation. Unfortunately, it is to be expected that there will be some bad tastes in some mouths over this. Remember that the rest of the players are well aware of these things. It undermines trust and makes future discussions more likely to be prickly, or worse.
In any case, the team needs Martin, badly. It is all but certain his agent approached the team some time ago about him wanting more money, and was stonewalled. It is the way for the Cowboys, and it is not a good one. It is one more thing to worry about going into training camp. We can hope this gets worked out quickly, but it is prudent to fasten those seatbelts, because this could be a bumpy ride.